‘of’

Even before he took his first breath on this earth as a complete human being, Jesus was entitled to a title. 

“Jesus of Nazareth.” 

It is evident in reading scripture: ‘Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’

John 1:45

By calling Him Jesus of Nazareth, Phillip may also have been making a statement about the lowliness of His birth. People of Nazareth were looked at as lower-class people. In fact, it is actually translated as” despised and rejected.” Nathanael’s response, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” John 1:46 

For many people, seeing Jesus was secondary to what followed the “of.” Because of this, they missed him. The key was in the name of Jesus, not what was after “of.”

 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

John 8:41

Rumors followed Jesus. It all started with Mary. Mary was carrying an illegitimate child. That rumor would carry on for many years. His upbringing in this town would impact both his social status and the start of his ministry. For his entire life, he would carry the title Jesus “of” Nazareth.

What title do you carry? 

Republican? Democrat? A drug addict, alcoholic, maybe it’s illegitimate, hypocrite, maybe divorced, possibly homosexual? Yet, Jesus seems to have a great connection with imperfect people. I know this as flawed as I am, yet I share an intimate relationship with him. Do you suppose this is why he has given the name Jesus ‘of’ Nazareth?

Perhaps we should reconsider focusing on the “of” that follows names. If everyone is created in the image of God and Jesus never focuses on our labels, shouldn’t we, too, look at the soul before the sin? But, unfortunately, some people, especially in the church, love the title game. There is a big difference between welcoming and judgment. Because we label everyone, it is often hard to look past titles. 

I am pretty addicted to this trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp… I confess. She is labeled before the verdict. I am guilty. Label me as I say it; I have judged before the jury.

Labeling sets up an expectation of life that is often so compelling we can no longer see things as they really are.

In other words, don’t be more religious than you are relational. The goal is to point people to the first part of our names *Jesus, and not what comes after ‘of.’ 

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